During the first 6 months, there are predictable transitions regarding healthy infant sleep.
• Starting a few days after birth, there is increasing late afternoon or evening fussiness, crying, and wakefulness that peaks around 6 weeks of age (all ages are counted from the due date, not the birth date).
• After 6 weeks of age, your baby has less fussiness and crying.
• Around 6 weeks of age, your baby’s brain wants an earlier bedtime.
• Around 6 weeks of age, the longest single sleep period (4-6 hours) regularly occurs at night; the night sleep rhythm develops.
• Around 3-4 months, a regular midmorning nap emerges and later a regular midday nap emerges; the nap sleep rhythm develops.
• During the first few months, nighttime feedings become fewer.
The timing of these transitions are approximations, but they do apply for the vast majority of infants.
However, some infants (20%) have colic and difficulty settling at night until they are 2-4 months old and some infants have only brief and/or more frequent naps until 9 months old.
Also, some parents are unable to put their baby to sleep when drowsy but awake (Blog Post 9) and some parents respond to every sound their baby makes with an unnecessary feeding (Blog Post 11).
Because of individual variation (‘Forbidden Zone and Individual Variation’) within the baby and issues within the parents (Blog Posts 17-18), it is important to be flexible and nonjudgmental (Blog Post 14).
My advice, during the first 6 months, is simple:
- Watch your baby, not the clock, and anticipate healthy infant sleep transitions.
- Begin soothing your baby to sleep as soon as your baby appears to become drowsy; try to not delay sleep times.
- Feed your baby at night whenever you think your baby is hungry and only if you think your baby is hungry; sometimes, at night, try other soothing methods.